Population fight not over yet


HA NOI — Viet Nam has managed to rein in its population growth but the fight to keep numbers down and improve lives is an ongoing struggle, the country’s population body announced on Thursday.

Deputy Director of the Committee for Population, Family and Children, Nguyen Thien Truong, said Viet Nam had managed to slow its population growth compared to forecasts.

But Viet Nam’s baby boom generation is approaching the peak of its child-bearing years and the number of potential parents is three times higher than in past generations.

Truong was speaking at a seminar in Ha Noi on Thursday to prepare for Viet Nam’s Population Day, which fell on Friday, December 26.

Original population forecasts estimated Viet Nam would reach the 80 million mark in 1999, but the number was not reached until last year.

If the country keeps following the Government’s voluntary two-child policy then the population will reach 100 million people by 2025, 15 years later than past estimates.

Truong said the slow population growth was significant as it translated into savings for Viet Nam in health, education and social services.

The country implemented its population and family planning programme in 1993 and has managed to bring the birth rate down from 3.8 children in 1989 to 2.28 children in 2003.

Truong said problems remain in rural and mountainous areas, where the population rate is still high, and in improving the population’s skills and education.

He said the physical, mental and intellectual state of Vietnamese people was not sufficient to service the nation’s drive towards industrialisation and modernisation.

He stressed the need to raise development in these areas to international standards.

Big improvements still need to be made in health and education.

Viet Nam ranked 109 among 175 countries in the United Nations’ human development index last year — no change from its 1995 ranking.

The country has more than 84 per cent of people over 15 years of age who do not hold any technical qualifications, 3.8 per cent with vocational secondary education and 4.2 per cent with college and university education.

Viet Nam’s number of malnourished children is high for the region, with 30 per cent of children aged under five affected.

HIV/AIDS is also beginning to have a noticeable effect in the 15-49 year age group, with 70,780 carriers officially recorded and many more people potentially infected.

Truong said birth control would continue to play an important role in creating the number and spread of the population to suit the State’s plans for the country’s socio-economic development.

But he said extra attention needs to be paid to far-flung and disadvantaged mountainous regions.

Truong said more than 40 per cent of the population lives in the Hong (Red) and Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta river regions, which account for only 15.8 per cent of the country’s land.

Tay Nguyen (the Central Highlands) and the mountainous north-west make up a fourth of the country’s land mass but are home to only 6.9 per cent of the population.

Viet Nam’s population density is six times the world’s average, at 231 people per 1sq.km. — VNS